First Pets of the Whitehouse

Forget about the Presidents – it’s all about the animals! And all sorts of animals have called the White House home over the years!

The first US President to have a dog in the White House was George Washington. President Washington was an avid dog lover, and even created a new breed of dog – the American Foxhound.

The recent US Election results will see President-elect Joe Biden’s German Shepherd, Major, become the first shelter dog ever to live in the White House. Joe Biden’s dogs won’t be the first German Shepherds in the White House though; Presidents Herbert Hoover, Franklin D Roosevelt, and John F Kennedy all had German Shepherds.

During the Cold War, John F Kennedy also had a dog called Pushinka. Pushinka was given to the Kennedy family by Soviet Leader, Nikita Khrushchev and was the puppy of a Soviet space dog that orbited Earth on Sputnik 2.

One of the most famous dogs in the White House was a Scottish Terrier called Fala, who belonged to Franklin D Roosevelt. Fala slept on the President’s bed, was taught to do tricks, and received so much fan mail that he had to have his own secretary. Fala even attended President Roosevelt’s funeral and has a statue next to Roosevelt in Washington D.C.’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial – the only presidential pet to be honoured in this way.

But the White House isn’t just famous for dogs – there have been a number of cats who have lived in the White House as well. Abraham Lincoln was the first President to have a cat in the White House. President Lincoln was quite the cat lover – he rescued three orphaned kittens during the Civil War, and his wife even referred to cats as being one of her husband’s hobbies!

The first Siamese cat ever in the US belonged to President Rutherford B Hayes. She was called Siam and was given as a gift to the President in 1879. Siamese cats have been quite popular in the White House, with Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford also owning this breed.

A number of unusual and exotic animals have also lived in the White House. Thomas Jefferson had two grizzly bear cubs, John Quincy Adams kept an alligator in one of the bathrooms, and Calvin Coolidge had a racoon called Rebecca that walked on a leash. Theodore Roosevelt was well known for having a number of pets including horses, snakes, a badger, parrots, flying squirrel and kangaroo rats!

William Harrison and William Howard Taft both kept cows at the White House; in fact, President Taft’s cow, Pauline, provided milk for him during his Presidency. Woodroow Wilson even had a flock of sheep at the White House during World War I. The flock kept the grass trimmed to save manpower (as a lot of men were off overseas fighting in the war), and earned $52,823 for the Red Cross through the auction of their wool.

Written by Jasmin Weatherley, Veterinary Nurse.

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